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Hart Park walking and driving tour expected to have some surprises

Hart Park, one of the oldest and largest parks in Kern County, will turn 100 next year — which means you still have time to learn more about the history of this beautiful park before the big party.

The Kern County Historical Society will host a walking and driving tour of Hart Park beginning at 10 a.m. March 21. Attendees are asked to meet at the park's west gate off Alfred Harrell Highway.

"There are so many structures and features in the park that were built in the 1930s. People don't realize what's out there," said Ken Hooper, president of the historical society and the tour guide.

Created in 1921 as a shade-dappled, lake-dotted escape for area residents, Hart Park is now in the midst of a rebirth of sorts, as the county of Kern has dedicated significant funding and attention to the 370-acre park's renovation.

The park took years to complete in those early years, Hooper said, with private organizations and service clubs sponsoring the early construction and New Deal projects in the 1930s that still influence the look of Hart Park today.

Hooper, a history and archiving teacher at Bakersfield High School, said he has enlisted the help of his archiving students, who are combing through thousands of editions of The Californian, from 1921 through the 1940s, to glean historical information.

One of the biggest surprises, Hooper said, involved efforts to change the park's name from Kern River Park to Hart Memorial Park in 1947. Hooper said it was a "pleasant surprise" to discover which group suggested the name be changed to honor Kern County Supervisor John Hart, who helped spearhead the park's development.

"But I'm not going to say who it was," Hooper said.

The tour, which will include both walking and driving, will last about 90 minutes. Lunch will not be included.

The cost is free to historical society members, and is $10 for nonmembers.

Go to eventbrite.com to purchase tickets in advance.

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